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Grape (Vitis)
Color of berry skinBlanc
SpeciesVitis vinifera
Also calledSee list of synonyms

Cortese is a white Italian wine grape variety predominantly grown in the southeastern regions of Piedmont in the provinces of Alessandria and Asti. It is the primary grape of the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) wines of Cortese dell'Alto Monferrato and Colli Tortonesi as well as the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wine of Cortese di Gavi. Significant plantings of Cortese can also be found in the Lombardy region of Oltrepò Pavese and in the DOC white blends of the Veneto wine region of Bianco di Custoza. Cortese has a long history in Italian viticulture with written documentation naming the grape among the plantings in a Piedmontese vineyard as early as 1659. The grape's moderate acidity and light flavors has made it a favorite for the restaurants in nearby Genoa as a wine pairing with the local seafood caught off the Ligurian coast.[1]


The village and vineyards of Gavi in the Alessandria province where Cortese has a long history of cultivation.

One of the earliest documentation of the Cortese grape dates back to a 1659 report to the Marchesa Doria from the estate manager of the family's villa in Montaldeo that states that all the vineyards were planted with Cortese and Vermentino. In 1870, the ampelographers P.P. DeMaria and Carlo Leardi noted that the Cortese was being widely cultivated in the Alessandria province of Piedmont where it was prized for its hardiness to grape diseases and ability to produce large crop yields as well as it high quality wine.[1]

Wine regions[edit]

Today Cortese is most widely associated with the DOCG wine Cortese di Gavi produced in the Gavi region of Alessandria. There are significant plantings of the grape throughout southeastern Piedmont including the DOC wine producing areas of Colli Tortonesi and Cortese dell'Alto Monferrato located a few miles to the west of Gavi and of Monferrato Casalese Cortese which extends to the Basso Monferrato north of the Tanaro. Despite the proximity to Gavi, Cortese experiences a significantly difficult time of the grapes fully ripening in Tortona and Monferrato. Piemonte Cortese DOC can be made in the Province of Cuneo to the west, and Alessandria and Asti.

Outside of Piedmont the grape can be found in significant quantities in the Oltrepò Pavese, part of the Province of Pavia in Lombardy which borders the Province of Alessandria. Further east, Garda Cortese DOC is produced in the hills near Lake Garda (provinces of Brescia and Mantova in Lombardy, and the province of Verona in the Veneto). The grape may also be used as part of the blend for the Bianco di Custoza DOC, also near Lake Garda in the Province of Verona. As of 2000, there were 7,800 acres (3,200 ha) of Cortese planted throughout Italy.[1]


Wines made from Cortese (particularly those from the DOCG Gavi) have long been favored by restaurants in the southern neighboring port of Genoa as a wine pairing with the local seafood caught off the Ligurian coast. The wine's moderate acidity and light, crisp flavors pair well with the delicate flavors of some fish.[1] Cortese wines tend to be medium bodied with notes of limes and greengage. In vintages that are particularly cool, the wines can be aggressively acidic and lean but winemaking techniques such as malolactic fermentation and oak barrel fermentation can temper that.[2]


Cortese is also known under the synonyms Bianca Fernanda, Corteis, Cortese Bianca, Cortese Bianco, Cortese d'Asti, Cortese dell'Astigliano, Courteis, Cortesi, Courteisa, Fernanda Bianca, and Raverusto.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 204-205 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0-19-860990-6
  2. ^ Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 85 Harcourt Books 2001 ISBN 0-15-100714-4
  3. ^ Cortese, Vitis International Variety Catalogue, accessed 2010-07-14